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This is a very important topic with recent studies reporting that over 50% of dogs in the UK are clinically obese. Obesity in dogs, as in humans, can lead to a number of other conditions including those listed below:
· Joint disease and arthritis
· Weakened immune system
· Diabetes mellitus
· Pancreatitis (painful inflammation of the pancreas)
· Exercise intolerance
· DECREASED LIFE EXPECTANCY
With these problems in mind, it is easy to see why keeping your dog at a healthy weight is in their best interest. We score dogs on a scale of 1 to 9 depending on how fat or thin they are:
1 Ribs, pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.
2 Ribs and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominence. Minimal loss of muscle mass.
3 Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist.
4 Ribs easily palpated with minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted, viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.
5 Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed.
6 Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is discernible viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent.
7 Ribs palpable with difficulty; heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be present.
9 Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distention.
The ideal body condition for an adult dog is 4 or 5. Any score below this would be considered too skinny and anything higher is classed as obese. If you think your dog is obese, speak to the vet or one of the nurses about ways you can help them to lose the weight.
Simple things you can do include reducing the amount of food you are giving the dog, using alternative healthy treats such as carrot chunks or ice cubes (many dogs enjoy chasing ice cubes round tiled or laminated floors) and putting your dog on to a specifically designed weight loss diet. You should aim to decrease the weight of the dog by no more than 1% per week.
It is important to remember that the idea behind a diet is that dogs should use reserves of fat within their body to produce the energy needed to go about day to day life. This means that in order to lose the weight, it will be necessary to feed your dog less calories than it will be using. Because of this, your dog may appear hungry while on the diet. It may seem cruel to keep a dog hungry for a prolonged period of time but it is essential to remember that you are improving the health of the animal and it's overall life expectancy.